Doctors fear 'unacceptable risk' on Melbourne coronavirus ward without specialist N95 masks

| 28.07,20. 10:59 AM |

Doctors fear 'unacceptable risk' on Melbourne coronavirus ward without specialist N95 masks

The doctor from the Alfred said the N95 mask provided the best level of protection when fitted properly.(ABC News: Patrick Stone)

Doctors on Australia's coronavirus frontline at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne believe they are at unacceptable risk because they do not have adequate protective equipment, forcing some to steal specialised masks from other areas of the hospital or buy their own.

Respiratory and infectious disease doctors have requested specialised N95 masks for when they assess and care for infected patients on the Alfred's COVID-19 ward, but have instead only been given standard surgical masks.

The N95 masks, which can be purchased at hardware stores or pharmacies, are more protective than the commonly used surgical mask, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention filter out at least 95 per cent of airborne particles.

The Department of Health's website said a P2/N95 mask should be used instead of a surgical mask for, "frequent close contact with patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19".

There are currently 400 health workers with the virus in Victoria and many more are in self-isolation.

One doctor, who did not want to be named, told the ABC his colleagues did not have access to N95 masks to review their patients, despite repeatedly requesting them.

Doctor doesn't feel safe, protected when assessing COVID patients
He said when appropriately fitted the mask provides clinicians with "the best level of protection in an easy-to-wear device".

"Respiratory and infectious disease doctors are having to buy their own supplies and bring them in or steal them from Code Blue trolleys which is a danger in itself, because they won't be stocked adequately when required," the doctor said.

"I have elderly and vulnerable family members and I don't feel safe or protected when treating and assessing the COVID-19 patients."

A spokesperson for the Alfred Hospital confirmed the N95 masks are only being provided to staff performing a specific procedure on the COVID-19 wards.


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